BJP makes clean sweep in Delhi

Delhi’s voters have often led the way in determining the outcome of the national elections, and this time too, they got it right. The national capital re-elected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates to all seven Lok Sabha seats, mirroring the landslide national victory of the saffron party on Thursday.

The BJP received 56.5% of the total votes polled in Delhi, which was significantly up from the 46% vote share it got in the 2014 general elections.

The Congress, which had a vote share of 15% in the last parliamentary election, recouped some support, finishing second in five constituencies and polling 22.5% votes across the city.

In contrast, the vote share of the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which had won 67 out of the 70 Delhi assembly seats in 2015, fell from 33% in 2014 to 18.12% in these elections. Delhi’s ruling party finished third on five out of seven seats.

While congratulating Prime Minister Narendra Modi for winning a second term, Kejriwal also said he is looking forward to working together in Delhi. “I congratulate Narendra Modi for this historic win and look forward to working together for the betterment of the people of Delhi,” he said in a tweet.

“We had fielded very good candidates in Delhi and had done a good campaign. All party workers also had put a lot of hard work. We accept people’s mandate. We will keep working for the people of Delhi,” he added a tweet in Hindi.

Two BJP candidates — Parvesh Verma from West Delhi and Hans Raj Hans from North West Delhi — won with the highest victory margins of over 550,000 in their respective constituencies. “Ye mere mehboob Modi ji ka asar hai [It is my beloved Modi ji’s effect],” Hans said outside a counting station. Even the Congress’s old guard, which the party fielded in the contest after talks on an alliance with the AAP failed, could not counter the wave in favour of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Three-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit, who fought BJP’s sitting MP and state unit president Manoj Tiwari from North East Delhi, lost by 360,000 votes.

Former Union minister and Congress’s New Delhi candidate Ajay Maken lost by a margin of 250,000 votes to BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi despite his pitch against the ongoing sealing drive targeted at unauthorised construction,invalidation of high-value banknotes in 2016, and the roll-out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 2017 — issues the Opposition was hoping would appeal to Delhi voters.

Five-time MP and Congress’s former state chief JP Agarwal, the most experienced politician in the fray, also lost by 220,000 votes from Chandni Chowk, where BJP’s Union minister Harsh Vardhan won for the second time.

AAP’s East Delhi candidate Atishi, who is credited with the Delhi government’s school reforms, finished third. Her opponent, BJP’s Gautam Gambhir, a former cricketer, won despite multiple controversies regarding his voter ID and poll conduct and allegations of waging a smear campaign against Atishi and other AAP leaders. AAP’s South Delhi candidate Raghav Chadha, who lost to BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri and North West Delhi contestant Gugan Singh, who was defeated by Hans, were the only two from the party who finished second.

While two of the seven sitting MPs were kept out by the BJP, the five others who ran for re-election managed to retain their seats The victory margins of the party in all the seven segments also improved from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

This was despite a fall of 5.5 percentage points in the voter turnout on May 12. “The people of Delhi have given their full-hearted support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is a historic mandate and just shows that people have rejected the negative politics of AAP and voted for development-oriented policies of the Modi government,” said Tiwari.

The Congress, although disappointed with its performance, drew consolation from the fact that its vote share improved. “We have managed to at least revive the party in Delhi. The last time, we were third, now we are second,” said PC Chacko, the party’s Delhi in-charge.

The AAP acknowledged that the result was not what the party had expected. “It is not quite on the lines of what we had assessed. But, the parameters on which people vote in a national election widely varies from state polls. Nevertheless, the party will look at what we could have done differently,” said AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj.

Could the party have strategised the elections differently? Experts said the outcome would not have been different even if a seat-sharing agreement between the AAP and the Congress had materialised.

“Even the mahagathbandhan [in Uttar Pradesh] failed to work. The larger takeaway from the results is that the parties opposing the BJP could not put up a fight. These parties [AAP and Congress] need to think more creatively and need to take up issues that will resonate with the voters,” said Tanvir Aeijaz, a teacher of political science at Delhi University’s Ramjas College.

With Delhi assembly elections just nine months away, experts said the AAP will need to figure out how to recover quickly from the setback. “These results are an indication that people are thinking of rejecting the AAP and seeking an alternative in the Congress, which was not the case in 2014, not the case in 2015 or even 2013 assembly polls,” said Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

First Published:
May 24, 2019 00:05 IST

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